The self-checkout register

not the panacea

Self-checkoutThe expanding universe of the self-checkout register shows up more in my Facebook feed than almost any topic. In general, these are not complimentary observations.

Some people complain about the basic philosophical position that machines are replacing humans. Far more, though, are frustrated by the difficulty of the transactions.

Specifically: they don’t work, fail to accept the coupons or register the incorrect prices. I wonder how often the frustration leads to items being unscanned and stolen. Or for abandoned transactions if the lines get too long.

Last month, when I was at my local Price Chopper grocery store, about a half dozen people were in line to go to the four self-checkout registers. Meanwhile, no one was in line behind the customer nearest human-staffed register. Of course, I went there and was done faster than the folks in line.


Around the same time, I stopped at CVS to get a small bag of chips and a ginger ale. The store had two self-checkout machines, but the only employee in sight was helping a customer in a wheelchair. Machine #1 had an abandoned transaction, so I went to the other one, which got stuck in a loop. Three frustrated patrons stood behind me.

Know that I had 15 minutes to catch a nearby bus when I walked in, but now it’s been ten minutes, and I was ready to throw up my hands and walk out sans the items.

Fortunately, another human employee noticed the backup. I told them the issues for both machines, and they fixed each in turn; I finished my transaction and caught the bus.

CVS has a habit of sending out user email surveys. I filled this one out with much of the details stated here. In response, I received this: “Thank you for your feedback regarding your experience at CVS Pharmacy on November 06, 2022. Providing exceptional customer care is a priority for us. .Sorry you had a problem with the self checkout you should not of had to wait that long to have the problem fixed. we should have respond much quicker”

(No, I’m not going to nitpick about the typos and grammar errors. Or even complain that my transaction was on the 3rd of November; my COMMENT was lodged on the 6th.)

It depends

I’ve made my peace with automated transactions. Frankly, I prefer the ATM at my bank to the tedious line I got into at my wife’s credit union last month, where the teller had to take a check written to my wife from our church for reimbursement so I could DEPOSIT it. Moreover, as I’ve noted, my bank, since COVID, now allows withdrawals of five- and ten-dollar bills. Yay!

Self-service gas is fine. Well, except at the local Shoprite because the discount card that one is supposed to scan before the credit card goes in doesn’t always register the discounted price.

I’ll admit that it took me a couple of minutes to suss out the kiosk system at a local fast-food restaurant. It is probably because I go there rarely; I don’t have or want their app.

So self-service is fine IF it works. It sucketh big-time when it does not. And according to this CNN piece from July 2022. “In the biggest headache for store owners, self-checkout leads to more losses due to error or theft than traditional cashiers.

“’If you had a retail store where 50% of transactions were through self-checkout, losses would be 77% higher’ than average, according to Adrian Beck, an emeritus professor at the University of Leicester in the UK who studies retail losses.

“Customers make honest errors as well as intentionally steal at self-checkout machines.”

The title of the piece says it all: “Nobody likes self-checkout. Here’s why it’s everywhere.”

The Lydster, Part 115: Honesty

The Daughter has a very strong sense of fairness and justice.

My wife, when some bit of my loose change would fall on the floor, would claim it as her own, if I didn’t pick it up in time, and put it in her change jar. It was this little game of hers and I didn’t much mind, though it’s not as though she needed the money; she now makes more than I do.

I would start getting a bit irritated, though, when I’d leave change on the table or the bed or my dresser, usually in order to take it out of one pair of pants, before putting it into another. Somehow, this was the game taken too far, and I said as much. Not only was it boring, but it also made being home a bit less of the sanctuary I wanted it to be.

The practice stopped, though, only when, at some point a few months ago, the Daughter was staying a couple of nights at her maternal grandparents’ house. She told them that Mama was always stealing from Papa (her current terms of endearment for us). My wife’s mother then relayed this message to her daughter. The Wife realized that, perhaps, she was not offering HER daughter the best role model, even in jest.

The Daughter has a very strong sense of fairness and justice, and by her taking the situation to a higher court, this worked out well for me also.

March on Washington, a half century later

When Jackie Robinson joined major league baseball in 1947, that did not mark the end of racism and segregation.

It’s likely you’ll see a LOT of stories about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Every single one will marvel at how much progress has been made in America in the area of race, since 1963. Almost all will point to a black President, the current Attorney General, and two recent Secretaries of State as examples. The divergence in opinions come on this point: some will claim that we have “reached the promised land,” making sure to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr. from that day a half-century ago – as though he were the only speaker there – while others will suggest that we haven’t quite gotten there yet.

When President Obama suggested that we look at race again in light of the Trayvon Martin case, that Obama could have been Trayvon 35 years ago, some, such as Touré at TIME, thought it was a brave personal observation. He wrote: “The assertion that blacks are hallucinating or excuse-making or lying when we talk about the many very real ways white privilege and racial bias and the lingering impact of history impact our lives is painful. It adds insult to injury to attack all assertions of racism and deny its continued impact or existence.”

Others labeled Obama “racist-in-chief”, playing the “race card” and worse. When Former Florida GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough lit into Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity last month for suggesting that Martin was a messed up teenager who “had it coming” when he was killed by George Zimmerman in their February 2012 confrontation, the bile cast on the Morning Joe host, Martin, his parents, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, among others, by a website I follow was toxic. The always dreadful Ted Nugent said that Martin had been ‘Emboldened’ By Obama, “the first black president as a ‘Black Panther’ running a ‘gangster’ government.”

Here are four charts suggesting Obama’s right about being black in America. Being profiled is, more than anything, disheartening, I can tell you. After George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon, Lavar Burton, the original Kunte Kinte of Roots fame, noted how he had taught his sons to keep their hands open and out of the car. Meanwhile, a white guy on the same show noted that he had once locked his keys in the car, so he tried to break in; a New Orleans police officer stopped him, saying, “No, you’re not doing it right.”

There’s this show on ABC called What Would You Do? It’s a hidden camera show that looks at human psychology. I don’t watch it, but I find it interesting that several of their experiments involve race. A most powerful one involved actors pretending to be bicycle thieves. From this story: When a white young man appeared to be taking a bike, most people didn’t question it. Yet when the African-American actor took his place, “the reactions were more pronounced. At one point, a crowd assembled around the purported thief and confronted him directly. One man pulled out a cellphone and said he was calling the police, which he was about to do until the cameramen filming the event stepped forward.”

When Jackie Robinson joined major league baseball in 1947, that did not mark the end of racism and segregation. It took over a decade before every team had at least one black player. It was 1987, when Al Campanis, general manager of the DODGERS, which was Jackie’s team, rationalized on national TV why there weren’t more blacks in baseball management; I watched it live, stunned. As a direct result, the sport was far more aggressive in making sure minority candidates at least got interviewed for a management position. They took an AFFIRMATIVE ACTION to rectify a system, not of overt racism, but merely cronyism, hiring the guys one already knows.

And speaking of which, the US Supreme Court seems destined to gut the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action, under the mistaken belief that everything is all better now. The economic inequities would otherwise. Almost 400 years have passed since blacks came to America, and that there is still work to be done does not negate the progress. Nor does the progress suggest that Martin, if he were still alive, and his colleagues, some of whom still alive, and their successors, would be resting on their laurels, satisfied that the work is done.
Leonard Pitts: Living in a time of moral cowardice.

If you could somehow magically bring [Martin Luther King, Jr.] here, that tomorrow would likely seem miraculous to him, faced as he was with a time when segregation, police brutality, employment discrimination, and voter suppression were widely and openly practiced.

Here is tomorrow, after all, the president is black. The business mogul is black. The movie star is black. The sports icon is black. The reporter, the scholar, the lawyer, the teacher, the doctor, all of them are black. And King might think for a moment that he was wrong about tomorrow and its troubles.

It would not take long for him to see the grimy truth beneath the shiny surface, to learn that the perpetual suspect is also black. As are the indigent woman, the dropout, the fatherless child, the suppressed voter, and the boy lying dead in the grass with candy and iced tea in his pocket.

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